In our first blog post in this series, “How to Transform Your Communications System into a Workflow Platform,” we looked at what workflows are and why it makes sense to integrate business communications systems into the way people work. Now let’s look at how to go about actually planning a system around those workflows.
Making Communications Workflows Work for Your Customers
Let’s face it. You’re in business to provide a product and/or service to customers. You have numerous processes in place to make that happen, but most companies don’t realize how many of those processes, or workflows, are based upon or can be enhanced and improved with your communications system. Think about it. From taking orders, to accounting, shipping and receiving, to customer service and support, you – and your customers – need an efficient system through which to connect and communicate so you can get things done. And make your customers happy.
To ensure you have a system that really helps you serve your customers as effectively and easily as possible, you need to start by identifying their needs: Are employees taking too long to respond to customers? Are customer calls being abandoned because no one is monitoring them? Is there a way to centralize communications to reduce complexity, reallocate staff for other functions, or respond to customers more easily and quickly?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it’s time to start integrating your phone system with your workflows. Let’s look at three important "first steps" to help make that happen.
1. Identify and Document Your Workflows
Before you can build a system around the way your business works, you need to look at all the processes that involve your phone system. Put together a cross-functional team of employees who use the system every day to identify each department’s individual workflows, as well as redundant or duplicate processes that could be eliminated. (Don’t limit this step to your IT staff – they’re not the primary users of the system.)
Document all of the business’ workflows and the current challenges presented that could be addressed with better communications technology (time to bring in IT). For help in documenting your workflows, there are many free tools available like Workflow Designer, Lucidchart, Creately, or Flowchart.com.
2. Evaluate Your System Needs
Once you’ve done the ground work, it’s time to evaluate your current communications system to determine if and how it can be integrated into the workflows you've documented. Start by answering some basic questions, such as:
- How many phones do you have/need?
- How many of your employees work remotely or are mobile workers?
- Do you use audio/video conferencing?
- How much business growth do you anticipate over the next 2, 5, 10 years?
- How many calls do you get each day?
- Do you have peak call periods during the day?
- How do you communicate between offices?
- Do you track calls using some kind of call accounting?
- What type of data network do you have?
- What are your monthly communications costs?
3. Determine the System Features/Functions You Need
Based on the first two steps, now it’s time to look at the capabilities and features available in today’s advanced communications systems that can help enable your specific workflows. Here are a few samples of what you may want to consider for your system:
- Ability to integrate with existing CRM systems, billing applications, contact center reporting packages, and IVR programs
- Ability to access cloud services
- Single-click access to voice calls, IM, voice mail, audio/video conferencing, company directories, etc., via web, mobile, and desk phones
- Real-time, customizable user status across all devices
- Customized customer greetings and routing rules
- Screen-popped caller information
- Call recording, search and retrieval for better customer service and compliance
- Targeted on-hold messaging
- Individual, group or company-wide paging and broadcast notifications
- Ability to make and track notes on calls in real-time
- Custom emergency Caller ID to improve safety and emergency response times
Get More Information
For a more detailed discussion of how to choose the best business communications system for how your business works today, check out our free buyers’ guide, "Straight Talk about Business Phone Systems." You may also want to get our latest white paper, "Beyond Technology: Planning Business Communications around Core Workflows." (Bonus! It's free, too.)
Next up: We'll discuss some specific use cases on how to optimize your customer service workflows. In the meantime, if you have a question about any of the features listed above, leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you personally.